Six games into the new season, the Tampa Bay Lightning are still perfect on home ice.
Tom Pyatt's goal at 3:18 of the second period stood up as the game-winner, as the Bolts cruised past the division-rival Florida Panthers 5-2 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Tuesday night.
Tampa Bay improved to 5-1-0 overall on the season and remained flawless in its own barn, where it is now 4-0-0.
“There’s still a lot left in us,” Cory Conacher said. “We can’t get too over our heads right now because it’s the first six games of the season and teams are still getting used to the speed of the game.”
Goaltender Anders Lindback made 26 saves to earn a win for the third straight game and for the fourth time in five starts this season, while Vincent Lecavalier, Conacher and Dana Tyrell each had a goal and two points for Tampa Bay."
It was more of the same in what has been a recurring pattern this season in the goals department for the Lightning, which have now recorded a league-best 29 goals this season, while scoring at least three goals in each of their six games total on the year.
After a scoreless opening 10 minutes, the teams didn’t take long to trade scoring chances, as both combined for three goals in a span of just 1:40.
Spurred by a fourth consecutive home sellout crowd of 19,204, the Lightning came out strong and grabbed a quick 1-0 lead when Stamkos opened the scoring while on the power play, roofing a second attempt above Panthers netminder Jose Theodore.
A mishandled puck behind the Lightning’s own net, however, gave Florida the goal right back just 15 seconds later after Peter Mueller beat Lindback, who was stalled on his back while trying to recover.
The wild sequence ended when Tampa Bay re-took the one-goal lead after Conacher slid head-first near the goal mouth and slid the puck into the net past Theodore to make it 2-1.
Tomas Fleischmann scored Florida’s only other goal of the night, but it still wasn’t enough to reverse an ugly scoring trend that has plagued the Panthers for the majority of the young season.
After earning a victory in its season-opener on January 19, Florida has gone on to drop each of its last five games. Tuesday’s game also marked the fifth consecutive game the Panthers have failed to score more than two goals.
“It’s obviously embarrassing,” Panthers defenseman Filip Kuba said. “But it’s not the right time to put our heads down and feel sorry for ourselves.”
Theodore turned aside 28 of 33 shots in the loss, but yielded Pyatt’s third goal of the season that increased the Lightning lead to 3-1 at 3:18 of the second, as he redirected Dana Tyrell’s pass into the back of the net.
The Lightning then appeared to go up 4-1 midway through the second when Conacher eluded a defender and scored on a breakaway chance. It was determined, however, that Conacher held the defender as tried to make a move around him, thus negating the goal and sending Conacher to the box and Florida on the power play.
Tyrell would get the Tampa Bay goal back, though, scoring from in front of the net off a feed from Pyatt at 15:39 before Lecavalier and Fleischmann swapped a pair of goals in the final 4:21 to cap the scoring.